Thursday, January 28, 2010

Government to take action against General Fonseka

Anbarasan Ethirajan - The Sri Lankan defence secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa says that the government is considering taking action against the opposition presidential candidate and former army chief General Sarath Fonseka for allegedly divulging sensitive information to the public.

His comments came just a day after the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa was announced the winner of the presidential elections.

The defence secretary said he was angry with his former colleague in the army for speaking out in public.

He said General Fonseka was wrong to suggest in a newspaper interview that the defence secretary had ordered the killings of senior Tamil rebels as they tried to surrender in the final stages of the conflict last May.

General Fonseka later retracted his statement.

He said his words were taken out of context. But in his BBC interview, Mr Rajapaksa said the retraction was not enough.

"He had done many mistakes," said Mr. Rajapaksa.

"He accused me of saying that I gave wrong orders. It came out in the newspapers. So taking action later on we will follow the procedures."

The defence secretary said that Gen. Fonseka will not be arrested "because he was the opposition candidate."

LTTE key suspect 'arrested'

There's been no immediate response from General Fonseka, who maintains that he won the presidential election and that he will be appealing against the verdict.

In his interview, the defence secretary also said they'd arrested the second in command of the Tamil Tiger organisation's overseas operations.

He said the suspect, known as Rajan (alias Subramaniam Sivakumar) had been arrested in a south east asian nation and brought to Colombo on Thursday.

The information regarding the suspect, he said, came from the Tamil Tiger leader, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, who is under arrest in Colombo. Mr Pathmanathan was arrested last August.

© BBC Sinhala

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Thursday, January 28, 2010


A media employee attached to the state controlled TV broadcaster Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation has been assaulted by a person claimed to be a coordinator of Sri Lanka's president.

Ravi Abeywickrama, the Organizer of the Program Producers Union in the state TV corporation was reportedly assaulted by the official close to the president Mahinda Rajapaksa in the presence of corporation's chairman, Ariyarathna Athugala

Prior to the presidential election Ravi Abeywickrama signed a joint statement along with 60 other state media employees condemning the misuse of state media in favor of President Mahinda Rajapaksa's election campaign.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

"I was forced to remove Competent Authority from state media": Polls Chief

“The two state media organisations did not comply with the relevant regulations of the election. Although the two heads of those media houses assured the Competent Authority (CA) appointed by me that they would comply with the CA's guidelines, it simply did not happen forcing me to remove him,” said the Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake yesterday.

Addressing a media briefing last evening at the Elections Secretariat at Rajagiriya to announce that Mahinda Rajapaksa had been elected as the President of the country according to the provisions of the Constitution, the polls chief spoke of instances where several regional leaders had disturbed his staff; District Returning Officers being unable to take control; several Deputy Elections Commissioners coming under verbal abuse; election officials of one polling station being chased out, etc.

“Of the 22 candidates who contested the presidential election that was held on the 26th of January 2010, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has secured 6,015,934 votes. This is more than half, more than 50 per cent of the votes cast at the election and according to the provisions of the Constitution, he has been elected as the President of the country,” said the polls chief.

“We note now several regional leaders of political parties have been disturbing us. They came into polling centres with their supporters and disturb our officers. This is not a good precedent to go by.

“I do not think that this is something that is motivated by the hierarchy of these parties. This is something that is done by these elements out of their own choice. There have been several instances where my Distinct Retuning Officers were unable to take control of such situations. At the same time several of my deputy elections commissioners have had to face severe inconveniences and have even come under severe verbal abuse.

“There was also one instance where election officials were chased out of the polling centre. I take this opportunity to state that these acts are very disappointing. This election was conducted according to the provision set out in the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.

“One thing I noticed during this election is that the two state media organisations did not pay much attention to comply with the relevant regulations of this election. Therefore, I was forced to appoint a competent authority for this purpose but these two institutions did not pay any attention to his recommendations.

“I would like say that the heads these two institutions met with the Competent Authority and had promised to comply with his recommendations. However, I would like to say that the heads of these two institutions met wit the Competent Authority and had promised to comply with his recommendations.

“We believed that they would act accordingly but this did not happen. Therefore I was forced to cancel this appointment and treat it as something that would not work and had to continue with my duties.

“Furthermore on several instances, I observed how many public sector institutions were acting without having identified what they should and should not be doing.

“I was also forced to face several hardships and inconveniences during this election. I was to retire in 2002 but I am still here. Although I had to work with much mental pressure, I was able to successfully carry out my responsibilities to the letter.

“I earnestly request to be removed from this position and I feel that it would not be right for me to continue in this office after this election. I cannot function under these conditions. They are not conducive for my health. If something were to happen to me, it is only I who has to deal with it and so therefore, I have no indention of continuing under these circumstances,” said the Elections Commissioner.

© News First

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sri Lanka: General Fonseka under House Arrest

Although the Army allowed General Sarath Fonseka, who contested the last Presidential Elections as the Common Opposition Candidate to go home from Hotel Cinnamon Lakeside, we reliably inform the readers that he is being kept under an unofficial House Arrest.

His house on Queens Road, Colombo 03 is encircled by soldiers of the Special Task Force and Gajaba Regiment of the Army, a reliable source informed Lanka News Web.

A senior Government Minister informed us that the troops are kept near his private residence for his own security. Meanwhile, the Army troops who were assigned for General Fonseka’s security have been withdrawn from midnight yesterday.

© Lanka News Web

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

"I will set your newspaper on fire" - SL Defence Secretary threatens JVP leader

“ I will set your Lanka newspaper on fire – be warned” were the words of Defence Secretary and brother of the President, Gotabaya Rajapakse to Somawansa Amarasinghe, leader of the JVP. The Defence Secretary made this call this morning to Mr Amarasinghe’s mobile phone. The conversation was witnessed by the JVP leader’s driver and members of the staff.

“ Around 9.21 am this morning, I received a call from the mobile no 077 – 3501626 which is the Defence Secretary’s number. He threatened me with death but I told him that one dies only once. He then asked me if I had not lived abroad and I said yes, I have but so have you. He next threatened to set Lanka newspaper press on fire.” Said Mr Amarasinghe at a press conference held in Pelawatte.

Answering questions raised by media, Mr Amarasinghe said that the phone number was recorded on his phone and that he answered the call leaving the speaker on in order to let the others who were with him to listen to the conversation.

© Lanka Truth

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

"If Prageeth is not missing, government should prove it" - SLWJA

A number of Sri Lankan web newspapers are blocked by Sri Lanka authorities in the run up to the presidential polls, a press freedom watchdog claims.

Lankaenews, Lankanewsweb, Infolanka and Sri Lanka Guardian websites were blocked in Sri Lanka hours before the results of the presidential elections announced, Paris based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement.

Condemning the "imposition of additional restrictions" on online freedom of expression, the watchdog said such censorship reflects the government's "readiness to resort to manipulation."

"The free flow of news and information during an election offers one of the few guarantees against massive fraud. We urge the government to restore access to these sites as the electoral commission has requested," RSF said in a statement.

The Lankaenews has lodged a complaint with the elections commissioner against the government's blocking of the website.

The Commissioner has referred the complaint to Sri Lanka Telecom, the Internet Service Provider (ISP). Secretary to the President, Lalith Weerathunga, is the chairman of the SLT.

Meanwhile, the press freedom watchdog has raised concern over the political columnist and cartoonist for Lankaenews, Prageeth Eknaligoda, who went missing last Sunday.

'Same old game'

Mr. Eknaligoda has been campaigning for the candidacy of the main opposition candidate Gen Sarath Fonseka.

"Eknaligoda had just written a long piece comparing the two leading presidential candidates and expressing a preference for the opposition candidate," said the RSF.

The Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) accused the authorities of not taking steps to find the whereabouts of the missing journalist.

Its General Secretary, Lasantha Ruhunage, told BBC Sandeshaya that the government has resorted to the "same old game" of blaming the missing journalist of staging a disappearance drama.

"The role of a responsible government is to investigate any disappearance of a citizen, let alone a journalist, and prove that he is not missing" he said.

© BBC Sinhala

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sri Lanka's defeated presidential candidate in hiding

Sri Lanka's defeated presidential candidate who failed in a bid to unseat incumbent Mahinda Rajapakse was in hiding Thursday in Colombo after warning of possible attempts on his life.

Former four-star general Sarath Fonseka was resoundingly defeated in the country's first post-war election and was then stripped of his 80-strong state security team which he said he needed to keep him safe.

"We have moved to a house in Colombo, but I can't tell you the location for obvious reasons," one of Fonseka's bodyguards told AFP late Wednesday.

In a day of high drama Wednesday that followed a bitter and vitriolic contest between the former allies, Fonseka rejected Rajapakse's victory and said he would mount a legal challenge.

Throughout the day, he was surrounded by heavily armed soldiers in a luxury hotel in central Colombo and he claimed he was unable to leave because he would be arrested or assassinated.

He eventually slipped out unimpeded after dark.

Rajapakse rode a wave of support among the majority Sinhalese population in the south to win the election, but he lost out to Fonseka in the Tamil areas in the north.

The 64-year-old president, who has close family members in key government positions, is a Sinhalese nationalist who ordered an offensive after taking office in 2005 to crush Tamil rebels and their 37-year separatist struggle.

The battle against the Tamil Tigers, who took up arms in 1972, has since been mired in war crimes allegations. Fonseka was the army chief credited with the military victory.

Analysts say Sri Lanka faces an enormous task in rebuilding its economy and is under stiff international pressure to secure a lasting political solution that addresses the grievances of its large Tamil minority.

Rajapakse and Fonseka, who belong to the Sinhalese majority, had both courted Tamil voters during the campaign with pledges of greater political inclusion and investment in the devastated northeast.

"I want to reach out to the Tamil people even though they did not vote for me this time," Rajapakse told reporters.

"What is important is to get them involved in a truly democratic election process," he added.

"We can sit and talk with them. See what their problems are. We can work together."

Rajapakse also said Wednesday that he was keen to repair relations with Western nations that were strained during the conflict due to criticism of Colombo's human rights record from the US, Britain and the European Union.

"Most of our misunderstandings were due to the fighting. It is over now. I am on my second (and final) term and we can work together to address any outstanding issues," he said from his residence.

Sri Lanka increasingly distanced itself from the West as it came under fire for its human rights record. It has built ties with China and Iran and last year hosted Myanmar's reclusive military leader Than Shwe.

Fonseka said Wednesday that he and the assorted coalition of opposition parties that backed him would challenge the election verdict, making their next step the filing of a petition at the Supreme Court.

But he also suggested he might have to flee abroad because the government had stripped him of his security, which he said was a deliberate ploy to leave him vulnerable to assassination by militants or government loyalists.

"They will try to assassinate me and then blame it on someone else," he told reporters.

Leaving the country in the short-term might be the best option, said the father-of-two who holds a US Green Card that gives him residency rights in the country.

Independent election monitors criticised the abuse of state resources by the government for campaigning ahead of the election, as well as violence on election day particularly in the north.

They stopped short of repudiating the vote, however.


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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sri Lanka: President’s New Term Time for Accountability

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and key international actors should take steps to bring accountability for Sri Lanka's grave human rights violations so that the thousands of victims will not continue to be denied justice during President Mahinda Rajapaksa's second term, Human Rights Watch said today.

The human rights situation in Sri Lanka deteriorated markedly during Rajapaksa's first term, and he failed to hold perpetrators accountable. During the final months of the 26-year-long war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which ended with the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009, both government and LTTE forces committed numerous serious violations of international humanitarian law, in which more than 7,000 civilians died in what the UN called a "bloodbath."

"The human rights situation in Sri Lanka plummeted to new depths on Rajapaksa's watch," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The president deftly played a false conflict between rights and the fight against terrorism in his first term. But with the war over, the UN and other international actors should loudly insist on justice for victims."

Rajapaksa was elected to a second term on January 26, 2010, in a hotly contested election in which his former army chief, retired Gen. Sarath Fonseka, was the runner-up. Although election day was relatively peaceful, according to election monitors, the campaign was marked by hundreds of incidents of violence in which at least four people were killed.

During and after the war, Rajapaksa's government confined nearly 300,000 internally displaced persons to large detention camps, where they were deprived of their liberty and freedom of movement in violation of international law. The government has separated more than 11,000 LTTE suspects from their families at checkpoints and in the camps, denying them due process, such as right to legal counsel and the right to have a court review their detention.

Threats and attacks against outspoken and critical civil society figures increased, and the government used anti-terror laws and emergency regulations against peaceful critics, further diminishing the space for public debate. The hostile, sometimes deadly, media environment drove dozens of journalists into exile.

Enforced disappearances and abductions, a longstanding and widespread problem in Sri Lanka, sharply increased in 2006, when military operations between the government and the LTTE intensified following the collapse of the 2002 ceasefire. In 2006 and 2007, the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances recorded more new "disappearance" cases from Sri Lanka than from any other country in the world.

Politically motivated killings during Rajapaksa's first term also remain unresolved, including the extrajudicial executions of five students in Trincomalee in January 2006 and of 17 aid workers with Action Contre la Faim in Mutur in August 2006.

Rajapaksa took no effective steps to bring accountability for human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said. In July 2009, Rajapaksa disbanded, before it could complete its work, a presidential commission of inquiry created in 2006 to investigate 16 cases of grave human rights violations. In April 2008, the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) had withdrawn from monitoring the commission because it had "not been able to conclude ... that the proceedings of the Commission have been transparent or have satisfied basic international norms and standards."

The vast majority of the hundreds of new "disappearances" and politically motivated killings from the past few years have never been seriously investigated, and none of the perpetrators have been punished.

In May 2009 Rajapaksa promised Ban that the Sri Lankan government would investigate allegations of human rights and laws-of-war violations during the war's final months. No such investigation has taken place. Instead, the government has set up a team of lawyers to respond to allegations about rights violations in reports by the US State Department and the UN special envoy on extrajudicial executions.

Because of the government's failure to investigate serious human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch has long called for an independent international investigation into abuses by all parties to the conflict. Thus far, the secretary-general's office has stated that Ban was "considering" establishing a committee of experts to "assist the government" of Sri Lanka to look at evidence that its soldiers committed war crimes last year.

"The various investigatory bodies set up by President Rajapaksa have spent more energy trying to deflect serious inquiries into abuses than actually conducting them," Adams said. "Ban and key governments should not fall for the same trick again and instead should call for an independent international investigation. The ball is now in Ban's court."

© Human Rights Watch

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Opposition leaders fear arrest

By Yohan Perera - Opposition party leaders who backed General Sarath Fonseka for the presidency yesterday charged that some of them might be arrested.

UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya told journalists they had received information on being harmed and therefore decided to move out of their homes on the eve of the election.

He said he could not divulge some of the details about these threats but revealed they were advised to gather at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel in Colombo.

Responding to questions asked by the journalists on reports that opposition party leaders including

General Fonseka were seeking the support of some foreign countries, Mr. Jayasuriya said none of the party leaders sought international help but said he was not aware as to whether General Fonseka had done so.

He rejected rumours that General Fonseka was planning to leave the country and said he was a Sri Lankan citizen and we don’t see why he could not reside here.

Opposition leaders also dismissed reports that General Fonseka was keeping army deserters and said nine officers who were given to him legally for his security but they were sent back to the Military Police yesterday.

JVP parliamentary group leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake who also attended the news conference said this was the first time that a candidate who lost a presidential election is held under siege by getting the troops to surround the premises he was staying.

“A candidate should have the freedom of movement,” he said.

Mr. Dissanayake said it was essential to put a stop to the undemocratic acts carried out by this government.

Meanwhile General Fonseka who was at the hotel after army troops surrounded the hotel charged that some of the officers stationed around the hotel were making several attempts to enter the hotel forcibly.

He made this charge in a letter to Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake yesterday. He also alleged that some of the officers he returned to the Military Police were made to kneel down.General Fonseka had also told the Commissioner that several of his employees had also been arrested.

The number of troops deployed around the hotel was increased at the time this report was going to the press. The riot squad was also brought in to prevent possible clashes.

© Daily Mirror

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sri Lanka's poll opens a new political divide

If Australians think about Sri Lanka in other than cricketing contexts, it will most likely be in connection with the island's bitter civil war and the flow of asylum seekers unleashed by the end of that conflict. The seaborne asylum seekers whose desperate plight last year revived contention about refugee policy in this country were Sri Lankan Tamils, which gives Australians - whatever stance they take in the so-called ''border protection'' debate - a particular interest in the outcome of Sri Lanka's presidential election.

In counting yesterday President Mahinda Rajapaksa had established a commanding lead over his main rival, former army chief Sarath Fonseka, after a poll in which more than 70 per cent of eligible Sri Lankans turned out to vote. The acrimonious and sometimes violent campaign preceding the election was evidence - were any needed - that the end of war is not the same as the beginning of peace. The new enmity between Mr Rajapaksa and Mr Fonseka, who worked closely together during Sri Lanka's war against the insurgent Tamil Tigers, suggests that the balance of Sri Lankan politics began to tilt in this election, the first in 26 years not to have been fought against the backdrop of war. That change may ultimately prove to be of greater consequence than the election result itself.

Mr Rajapaksa and Mr Fonseka are both considered heroes by the island's Sinhalese majority because of their victory over the Tigers, though each man claims that the other has tried to deprive him of due credit. Both have also been accused of human rights violations during the war, in which many civilians died. In the aftermath many others were interned, in concentration camp-like squalor, because they were suspected of having supported the Tigers. A US State Department report in October concluded that some of the military's actions could be described as war crimes, and the UN estimates that 7000 Tamil civilians died in the closing months of the war.

The savage repression after the Government's victory caused the exodus of asylum seekers; it did not, however, prevent the Tamil National Alliance, the minority's main political party, aligning itself with the Fonseka cause during the campaign. This was not only because there are no longer any Tigers threatening violent retribution against Tamils who participate in Sri Lankan civil politics, or even because Mr Fonseka has said that he is willing to face scrutiny of his role in the war, which Mr Rajapaksa refuses.

Mr Fonseka campaigned against the concentration of executive power in the office of president, calling for the prerogatives of parliament to be restored. That struck a chord with Tamils, who regard Mr Rajapaksa as the greater evil because of the Government's conduct of the war, with other minorities such as Sri Lanka's Muslim community, and above all with members of the Sinhalese majority alarmed by the spread of corruption in the Government. The result was a broad coalition unimaginable a year ago. It was a tentative alliance, united chiefly by opposition to Mr Rajapaksa and members of his family who have prospered during his time in office. The fact that Mr Fonseka was able to assemble such a coalition at all, however, points to the potential for a transformation of Sri Lankan politics in the years to come.

The pattern of voting in yesterday's election, however, suggests that this prospect remains a remote one. The turnout in Tamil areas was low, depriving Mr Fonseka of votes he needed to counter Mr Rajapaksa's support in the Sinhalese south of the country. It is hardly a surprise that Sri Lanka's old divisions still influence voter attitudes: more than 270,000 Tamils were interned after the war, and more than 100,000 remain in the camps. For the present, however, what matters most is what role military force will play in Sri Lankan politics - and in that respect, the commandos who surrounded Mr Fonseka's hotel yesterday are an ill omen.

© The Age

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sri Lanka: Hopes and fears after election

By Sara Sidner - Sri Lanka has held its first presidential election since government forces put down a 26-year insurgency by Tamil Tiger rebels.

CNN's Sara Sidner looks at the election, claims of vote rigging from political rivals who were war-time allies, and what the future may hold for Sri Lanka.
What is the significance of the elections?

This is the first peacetime election in more than 25 years. Sri Lanka has just emerged from a civil war that has torn the country apart, left tens of thousands displaced, and many argue has stunted the country's growth especially in the north where the war has destroyed much of the infrastructure.

Citizens see this election as an opportunity for the government to move the country forward much more rapidly instead of putting its resources into the war.

Sri Lanka has long been in the spotlight around the world because of the war that pitted a group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), labeled by Washington and the EU a terror organization, against the Sinhalese majority government.

The LTTE started its fight for a separate country in the north as a protest against the government for oppressing the minority Tamil population and treating them as second class citizens.

Why is this election so hotly disputed?

The election pits two powerful men against each other who were just months ago close allies working together to win the war.

The incumbent, Mahinda Rajapaksa, is up against his former Army Commander, General Sarath Fonseka. The two men ended up at odds over what appears to be more personal than political.

The moment the war was declared over by the two men -- who are largely credited with winning it -- the president put General Fonseka in a government position that held very little power.

Fonseka felt as if he had been marginalized and at the same time, once he began trying to work with his Commander in Chief in a peacetime setting, the two men did not see eye to eye on the way to go about moving the country forward.

What happened in the election?

Sri Lanka's election campaign season was violent, according to an election monitoring group in the country. There were more than 700 reported incidents of politically motivated violence several of which ended in deaths as the two candidates made their way around the country stumping for votes.

When it came to the actual polling day things cooled way down. Voting was peaceful in the vast majority of the country, except in the north where voters woke up to several explosions hours before the polls opened though no one was injured.

The incumbent, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has won the election with nearly 60 percent of the vote while his main challenger Sarath Fonseka had just over 40 percent, Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake said.

Rajapaksa has claimed victory and will serve a second term while Fonseka says he will not concede the election after accusing the government of fraud.

While the vote was being counted the Rajapaksa-led government sent armed troops to the hotel where Fonseka and several opposition leaders stayed for the night. Fonseka and his supporters moved to the hotel due to fears they would not be safe in their own homes after Fonseka said he had received threatening phone calls.

For nearly 24 hours troops stood outside the hotel prompting Fonseka to accuse the government of trying to intimidate him and his supporters.

Rajapaksa responded that the troops were there for Fonseka's protection and for the protection of the entire hotel since so many political leaders were there -- an explanation Fonseka rejects.

What's possible next?

Fonseka says he will go to all the legal means to try to nullify the election but said he would leave the country for a while if he felt his safety depended on it. Rajapaksa says he will continue his work as president knowing that voters backed him for a second term.

Polls in the Tamil dominated areas showed voters favoring Fonseka. Tamil citizens worry they will continue to be marginalized by the Sinhalese majority government. Tens of thousands of them are still living in displacement camps as victims of the war.

The president has said in the past that there are no more minorities in the country, only Sri Lankans and vowed to make the country whole.

But in an interview he could not spell out exactly what he would do to help make that a reality for the minority Tamil population.


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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fonseka rejects Sri Lanka election win for Rajapaksa

Charles Haviland, Colombo - President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been declared the winner of Sri Lanka's presidential poll but the outcome was immediately rejected by his challenger.

Gen Sarath Fonseka promised a legal challenge to the outcome of the ballot, the first since Tamil Tiger rebels were defeated after 25 years of civil war.

The Elections Commission declared Mr Rajapaksa the victor with 57.8% of votes cast, to 40% for his main rival.

Gen Fonseka later left a hotel where he had complained of being intimidated.

He left in a vehicle with security on Wednesday, and prevented troops who had been stationed around the luxury hotel from searching him and his vehicle.

Once he had left the area, the troops immediately took down roadblocks and dispersed.

It was believed his security would be removed when he got to his house, but a military spokesman said 40-50 troops would be retained for him.

A government spokesman had said the troops were at the hotel to look for army deserters, with a military spokesman adding that the troops' deployment was a "protective measure".

The BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan, who had been in the same hotel as Gen Fonseka and other opposition leaders, says the troops' presence had created a very tense atmosphere.

An opposition spokesman, Rauf Hakeem, said opposition members had appealed to the government over what he said were "high-handed tactics" intended to intimidate them.

He told reporters there were no deserters inside the hotel.

Gen Fonseka has alleged vote-rigging and has lodged several objections with Sri Lanka's electoral commission by letter. He has also accused the government of wanting to kill him and said it had removed his personal security from the hotel, leaving him vulnerable.

Speaking the BBC's Sinhala service, Gen Fonseka later confirmed that he had reached his home.

"We went to the hotel because there was a threat to my life," he said.

"There is nothing we can do about it. There is no law and order in this country. They are planning to assassinate me."

He did not give any details about any alleged plot to kill him. He added that he was planning to leave the country, but would not say where he was going.

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the brother of the president-elect, has previously expressed concern about Gen Fonseka's allegations that at the end of the war he ordered surrendering Tamil Tiger rebels to be shot. Gotabaya Rajapaksa has denied the claims.

Since he left the army the higher ranks have very much rallied behind Mr Rajapaksa, the BBC's Charles Haviland in Colombo says. Gen Fonseka also does not have his own party base, having stood for election backed by a disparate group of opposition parties.

Independent election observers have been perturbed by two main elements, our correspondent says, one of which is the amount of violence in the run-up to the election - with most complaints about the perpetration of violence laid at the door of the president's side.

The other is what monitors say is the misuse of public resources and state media, particularly state-run TV, which provided blanket coverage of the incumbent president's campaign.

Some 70% of Sri Lanka's 14 million-strong electorate turned out to vote. However, turn-out in the Tamil areas in the north-east, where the fiercest fighting occurred during the conflict, was less than 30%.

Lucien Rajakarunanayake, a spokesman for Mr Rajapaksa, told the Associated Press news agency that the president had "won a historic and resounding victory in the first free and fair elections held throughout the country since the defeat of terrorism".

Supporters of Mr Rajapaksa celebrated in the streets of Colombo, waving Sri Lankan flags and setting off fireworks.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated Mr Rajapaksa, saying he was confident "Sri Lanka will find lasting peace, where all communities can live with dignity and in harmony."

Millions of Tamils live in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Bitter fight

After a violent and acrimonious campaign, during which four people died and hundreds were wounded, Tuesday's election was largely peaceful.

But there were serious exceptions, especially in the Tamil-populated north.

In the city of Jaffna, the private Centre for Monitoring Election Violence said there were at least six explosions before and just after voting began.

Later there were two blasts in Vavuniya, the town near the huge camps for people displaced by the war. The organisation said it feared this was a systematic attempt to scare people away from voting.

There were also grenade attacks in the Sinhala-dominated centre and south.

It later turned out that Gen Fonseka had not been able to vote because his name was not on the register.

The two men were closely associated with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers last May but fell out soon afterwards. Gen Fonseka quit the military, complaining that he had been sidelined after the war.

The president's side accused the general of courting separatists.

© BBC News

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Asian election monitors calls for voter registration audit

By Sumaiya Rizvi - Asian election monitors are calling for a voter registration audit if claims by local elections monitors of fraud in the counting of votes and disfranchisement of voters are true.

Foreign observer and Mission Director of the Asian Network for Free Election (ANFREL), Ichal Supriady told Daily Mirror online that the accepted methodology of proving that the voter list is clean or dirty would be sorted by a voter registration audit.

A delegation of ANFREL election observers were in Sri Lanka on invitation by the People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections.

© Daily Mirror

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